The programme was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on March 19 at 15:00.
Like so many Radio 4 panel shows before it, The 3rd Degree tries hard to bridge the gap between the station’s reputation for snobbish intellectualism and self-referential ‘ironic’ humour, and like the many others which have come before it, manages to fall down on both counts.
The premise behind it is a sound one – a University Challenge-style academic quiz show, which pits a team of Swansea University students against their corresponding lecturers to answer alternate questions on designated ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ subjects. It just might have worked as a quiz had it not been for the apparent necessity to inject humour into proceedings.
As listeners to The Now Show will attest Steve Punt is a great comedy writer, but he is badly cast as master of proceedings here. He’s not imposing enough to act as an authoritative quizmaster, but the show just isn’t funny enough to warrant his scripted lines sandwiched between questions.
While there’s some fun to be had pairing questions about Schubert and Shaun the Sheep, or asking classical scholars about internet slang, the show never quite displays the potential the format suggests.
More questions would be a good start, and a decision as to whether it wants to be a serious, hard-hitting test of knowledge, or a frivolous 30 minute schedule-filler. With a change in focus and a new host willing to focus on holding the show together, rather than making laboured impressions, this could well prove a success.